Hip-hop sensation Lil Nas X dropped his long-awaited debut studio album, “MONTERO,” giving listeners an intimate and humanizing look into his life of fame, desires and challenges as a gay Black male artist. From head-banging hit singles to more relaxed and intimate songs, the album serves as a personal introduction to Lil Nas X as an artist and as a person.

Montero Lamar Hill, better known by his stage name Lil Nas X, is a 22-year-old hip-hop artist hailing from Lithia Springs, Georgia. Lil Nas X dropped out of college in 2018 to pursue music full time, and shot to fame in December of the same year with the TikTok hit “Old Town Road.” Since then, Lil Nas X has released a number of billboard hits, including “Panini,” “Rodeo” and “HOLIDAY.”

The eponymous debut album “MONTERO” was released on Sept. 17, 2021, and boasts a 15-song track list that spans 41 minutes. Lil Nas X has mastered the art of manipulating controversy into hype and publicity for his artwork. Some of his songs included on “MONTERO” have had tumultuous news coverage for their often outrageous nature. His 2021 hit “MONTERO (Call Me By Your Name),” describes the desire to be on a first-name basis with his significant other. The music video accompanying the track shows Lil Nas X sliding down a pole into hell and grinding on the devil, among other sexual and satanic overtones, which generated backlash from religious and conservative groups. During this time, Lil Nas X also released a special edition pair of Nike Air Max 97s with viral product company MSCHF. Promoted as the “Satan Shoes,” the black-and-red pair were said to have contained a drop of actual human blood. Following this, Lil Nas X cleverly channeled the controversy around the “Satan Shoes” into the theme for his summer 2021 single, “INDUSTRY BABY,” where he is put on trial in the music video. Lil Nas X, who is both college-age and a member of Generation Z, is familiar with the ins and outs of social media and has used platforms such as TikTok and Twitter to show his more humorous and relatable side.

“MONTERO” features a range of artists including Jack Harlow, Doja Cat, Elton John, Megan Thee Stallion and Miley Cyrus. Tracks such as “INDUSTRY BABY” and “DOLLA SIGN SLIME” are high-energy and good for a confidence boost, as Lil Nas X brags about his accomplishments, success and overall invincible nature as a chart-topping artist. Both feature Lil Nas X’s classic style, pairing a flashy trumpet melody with strong bass. Doja Cat impresses once again with the tactful use of her voice, and shows listeners that she is a catch in “SCOOP” with lines like, “And now my body looks like something you’d eat cake off” and “But you thought you’d have a chance after you wanna disrespect me?” The album art, which depicts a naked Lil Nas X floating in the center of an ethereal garden, is consistent with his godly imagery and draws inspiration from the Bible. Citing Genesis II, Lil Nas X shared the excerpt that influenced his album cover in a tweet that reads, “Thus the heavens and the earth were completed in all their vast array. By the seventh day God had finished the work he had been doing; so on the seventh day he rested from all his work.”

Despite the bravado of many of his hit songs, Lil Nas X does not forget to explore more serious topics in his album. Lil Nas X laments about his loneliness and desire to have a partner who loves and needs him in “THATS WHAT I WANT.” The acoustic guitar instrumental and upbeat chorus may be deceiving at first, but Lil Nas X describes the struggles of finding love as a queer Black man. This is made clear when he sings about an encounter with another man: “The afro Black boy with the gold teeth / He dark skin, lookin’ at me like he know me / I wonder if he got the G or the B.” Lil Nas X brings light to the specific intersections of the gay and Black experience, filling a niche in popular music that has typically remained unaddressed previously. In the short interlude, “THE ART OF REALIZATION,” Lil Nas X continues to show a more vulnerable and human side, asking himself questions such as “It’s like for who? / Is it for me? Am I happy?” “MONTERO” works like a personal diary, detailing some of Lil Nas X’s reflections. In “VOID,” he confides in his past self, saying, “To let you know that all in all, it ain’t all what it seems / I feel like I’ve hit a low” and “It seems so out of reach / The place I want to be.”

In the end, “MONTERO” is an exciting release that covers many facets of Lil Nas X’s emotions and experiences and gives listeners an intimate look into his mind. Through a number of memorable hits, Lil Nas X brings a valuable perspective that is often missing from pop and hip-hop music today.